Alastair Campbell and rapper Professor Green among 2,700 to sign Parliament Hill Cafe petition
- Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima
More than 2,700 people in just two days have signed a petition to save the Parliament Hill Cafe from being taken over by catering chain Benugo.
Among them are former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell and rap star Professor Green who have posted the petition with messages of support on their Twitter pages.
As revealed exclusively in the Ham&High the move by the City of London Corporation to award the three-year lease for the much-loved Heath cafe to Benugo has been slammed as “as bad as if it were to become a Costa coffee.”
It will see Savoy-trained chef Alberto D’Auria, 70, and his family kicked out in May after 33 years running the cafe.
The petition says: “Parliament Hill Cafe has been family run for more than three decades, offering generous sized, freshly prepared meals to their customers without breaking their budgets.
“Family man, father of four and Savoy trained chef Alberto D’Auria has become a loved member of this community and at 70 years old is not ready to hang up his apron yet as he still has the same passion for providing a cost effective service as he has done for the past 33 years.
“Too many small businesses are failing in favour of large corporates, when we, as the general public should be encouraging and supporting those smaller businesses who are providing an a-star customer service over solely having the emphasis on profit margins. Therefore, help us to help Alberto maintain his position within Parliament Hill and to continue providing a great service loved by, not only local residents but visitors alike.”
Many of the 2761 signatories are also calling for customers to boycott the cafe when it is taken over by Benugo in May.
Customer Naomi Peck said: “It is a wonderful and affordable family run cafe that has been dishing up pasta and cuppas for years. If they had consulted, they would have found out that people do not want another overpriced Benugo outpost with their lah-di-dah exorbitant approach.
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“Benugo will be boycotted if the plans go ahead. Say no to ‘Be-Nogo’”
Alberto D’Auria said he was overwhelmed by his customers reaction: “Our customers have been coming in to say they don’t want us to go and are starting this petition.”
“I am very angry and sad at the way we have been treated after so long and that its taken six months for them to decide. We have been improving our service and keeping prices low and keeping local people happy.
Making the decision over the Benugo bids behind closed doors the City of London Coporation has been accused of ignoring the unique nature of Hampstead Heath and the social needs of the community in awarding the lucrative contract to the most economically advantageous bids.
Highgate ward councillor Sally Gimson, who sits on the committee and voted against the Benugo bid on Monday, said: “It was a close vote at seven to six and some of us are really cross.
“Essentially the Parliament Hill Cafe has been handed to a large chain. It’s almost as bad as if it were a Costa coffee. Benugo is gradually taking over all British institutions, from Regent’s Park to major museums and galleries in London.
“The procurement department did not take into account the special nature of the Heath and the social value of having a local company run the cafe.
“I have warned the committee there is likely to be an enormous backlash from the local community.”
Benugo was also given the leases for the cafe in Highgate Wood and in Golders Hill Park.
The chain runs catering facilities in Regent’s Park, the Barbican Centre, Lincolns Inn Fields, and museums throughout London.
But Sue Ireland, director of green spaces at the Corporation, said: “We have a duty to run our services in the most cost-effective manner as it is only by doing so that we can invest ?£5million a year into Hampstead Heath.
“We have ensured throughout this process that the winning tenders will be able to demonstrate not only high quality refreshments, but also that they can offer a service which is at the heart of the local community.”
Benugo founder Ben Warner said: “We were delighted to be asked to tender to work with London Parks in these three, very special locations, and are looking forward to being able to bring our fresh, high-quality, modern British food and flavours to these unique venues. We are of course mindful that in some cases we will be inheriting established food operations and are confident that our vision and menus for these spaces will be embraced by their local communities.”